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Editorial: California court targets Second Amendment

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Second AmendmentA well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Do we, as Americans, truly have a constitutional right to bear arms? A California court doesn't think so.

Earlier this month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California's tight restrictions on assault weapons, saying that the Second Amendment was never meant to guarantee an individual's right to own a gun.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the three-judge panel, said that the law doesn't violate the Bill of Rights because the Second Amendment was meant only to confirm the power of state militias to organize and to arm its troopers.

According to the law, anyone who already owned the guns that were put on the list of banned weapons by the state attorney general must register them, make them inoperable, take them out of the state or give them up.

The specifics of that law aside, the ruling -- which is the direct opposite of a stance taken by U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft and a decision made last year by a federal appeals court in New Orleans -- has renewed the debate about gun control.

From where we sit -- and according to judicial decisions for decades -- the case seems clear. The right to bear arms is included among those guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. It's clearly a right, along with free speech, a free press, freedom of -- and from -- religion, to peaceably assemble as well as freedom from unreasonable searches and from cruel and unusual punishment.

There are others.

Not to mention that when the Bill of Rights was drafted, 211 years ago this month, gun ownership was common. Citizens used those guns to protect themselves and their families as well as hunt for food.

In this context, is there any doubt that gun ownership clearly was considered an individual's protected right?

This ruling from California is another example -- a judge from this same court ruled earlier this year that the "under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional -- of judges rewriting history to create a Constitution that mirrors their views on how the nation should be governed today.

This case will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Let's hope that the justices do what they are obligated to do: interpreting the law as it was written.

If gun-control advocates are right and gun ownership is a real problem, then the law should be changed. But arguing that it is not a right is wrong. Let the law speak for itself.


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